Six of the best films to see in cinemas this weekend

New this weekend: Ad Astra, The Farewell, Rambo: Last Blood

The outer limit: Brad Pitt in Ad Astra

The outer limit: Brad Pitt in Ad Astra

 

AD ASTRA ★★★★☆
Directed by James Gray. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland. 12A cert, gen release, 123 min
From the iconic swagger of The Right Stuff to the gals-at-home of Apollo 11, space travel is a butch business. Gray’s seventh feature is part of a strange subgenre, one that covers everything from Solaris to 2001 to Interstellar. Ad Astra is a ponderous, $80 million epic concerning Major Roy McBride (Pitt, never better), a cool-headed, slow-pulsed, emotionally stunted astronaut who is recruited to journey to Neptune. The mission: find the father (Jones, as brilliantly mad as a box of frogs) he believed was dead, as said patriarch is believed to be responsible for electrical pulses that may soon destroy Earth. At times the film is so thoughtful and interior, the dialogue sounds like it came from a classy mindfulness app. But its set pieces make for some of the most thrilling scenes of the year. Full review/trailer TB

THE FAREWELL ★★★★☆
Directed by Lulu Wang. Starring Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo. PG cert, gen release, 98 min

Awkwafina in The Farewell
Awkwafina in The Farewell

It doesn’t sound like a charming idea, but this delicate, moving Chinese-American comedy concerns a family of liars and a dying granny. Awkwafina plays Billi, an aspiring writer who learns that her beloved Nai Nai is terminally ill but who, crucially, doesn’t know it. Thus the family hastily arrange a wedding for Billi’s cousin and his Japanese fiancee, an occasion that will allow them to gather around Nai Nai in her home without signalling the severity of her condition. Horrorified Billi, however,is not invited lest she break down and give the game away. She turns up anyway, and the family holds a collective breath. Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical story is a lovely, warm family picture featuring a star-making turn from Awkwafina. Full review TB

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD ★★★☆☆
Directed by Adam Grunberg. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim. 18 cert, gen release, 89 min

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: Last Blood
Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: Last Blood

John Rambo seeks to recover his niece (Monreal) from hoodlums in the last (?) film in a successful series. Last Blood is heading inexorably to a finale that weaves some flavours of Home Alone into the video-nasty stew. Yes, the movie is made to a formula, but it’s a formula that’s been all but abandoned. It’s not exactly a film for grown-ups. But it’s not a film for children either. That’s something to hold on to. Full review DC

HUSTLERS ★★★★☆
Directed by Lorene Scafaria. Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B, Mercedes Ruehl. 16 cert, gen release, 110 min

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers
Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

So here come words we weren’t expecting to write: give Jenniffer Lopez the freaking Oscar for Best Supporting Actress now. The trailer for the tremendously entertaining Hustlers makes it look like a hen party extravaganza. But the film, in which dtrippers skim their Wall Street clientele using a heady mix of feminine wiles and MDMA, has far more wit and emotional heft. It’s a sturdy crime caper with an unexpectedly big heart and two tremendous performances: Wu works every acting muscle. Lopez, who is alternately maternal, sisterly, steeley and warm, reminds you that she has more old-school star wattage than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Brad and Leo can muster together. Full review TB

FOR SAMA ★★★★☆
Directed by Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts. Featuring Waad al-Kateab, Hamza al-Kateab. Club, QFT, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 94 min

For Sama
For Sama

Stunning documentary concerning the life of a young woman, her doctor husband and their young child in an increasingly ravaged Aleppo. Waad al-Kateab began For Sama as a sort of video diary – a record in case she didn’t make it out alive. It was picked up as citizen journalism and then transformed into a film that allows moments of beauty among its parade of horrors. Nothing cuts through the propaganda more incisively than human stories. Full review DC

DOWNTON ABBEY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Michael Engler. Starring Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton. PG cert, gen release, 122 min

Michelle Dockery, Geraldine James, Simon Jones and Matthew Goode in Downton Abbey
Michelle Dockery, Geraldine James, Simon Jones and Matthew Goode in Downton Abbey

Big-screen adaptation of the late TV series concerning Yorkshire nobs and their underlings. The team have picked up an idea from the most famous episode of forerunner Upstairs Downstairs, when the Bellamy family was visited by Edward VII. Now George V and Queen Mary are dropping in on the Crawley household. The ensuing chaos triggers a clatter of interweaving subplots that allow most surviving characters a neat story arc. It’s very cosy, but perfectly in tune with the series’ values. Dame Maggie steals it. Full review/trailer DC

Other ★★★★★ and ★★★★☆ films out and about: Bait, The Chambermaid, Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Gaza, Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood, Pain and Glory, The Souvenir. All current synopses here

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